According to documents and interviews obtained by the New York Times, the White House pressured the Center of Disease Control (CDC) to encourage schools to open for the upcoming school year. The White House also tried to gain additional data showing the deterioration of the pandemic and the minimal impact of the virus on younger children.
President Donald Trump has directly pushed for reopening schools and has openly spoken about wanting to open schools quickly in fall.
Officials within the Trump Administration directly involved include Dr. Deborah Birx, (the coordinator of the White House’ coronavirus task force), Mike Short, (the chief of staff of Vice President Mike Pence) and multiple aides to Pence’s office.
Another report from the New York Times states that Birx pushed for the CDC to include data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which claimed that extended school closures could affect the mental health of young students and that transmission of the virus amongst family members appeared low.
The CDC’s original endorsement came July 23 on their official website with the title “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools This Fall.”
The White House has publicly denied allegations of pressuring the CDC. The White House deputy press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, claims that the White House staff relies on top health officials and they view opening schools as a public health interest.
The CDC has faced criticism for their handling of the COVID-19, including by the Trump Administration, which often deny or disagree with public statements made by the CDC.
In Sept. 2020, the CDC released testing guidelines on their website that stated that someone who had been near a carrier of COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, but continued without symptoms, should not get tested for COVID-19.
This claim garnered much criticism, including from American Medical Association President Susan R. Bailey.
The CDC later retracted the statement and now recommends testing even for those who do not show symptoms.
Republicans such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have agreed with President Trump’s wishes to have public schools open or else funding would be cut, and by Monday, Oct. 12th, Miami Palmetto Senior High School will be completely open to all students.